LITERATURE IN A WEEK: What Can Words Do (A Review)

Posted: April 16, 2014 in Critical Review, Literature in a Week
Tags: , , ,

What Can Words Do?
Kukogho Iruesiri Samson
Pages: 84 pages
Year of Publication: 2013
Reviewer: Chimezie Chika

There is a cliched saying that goes this way: ‘The pen is mightier than the sword’. In no place is it more exemplified than in Kukogho Iruesiri Samson’s debut poetry collection.

In Kukogho’s collection a lot happens. Cold ovens bake bread, earth fights itself, tongues fool thumbs, men chew seeds of discord, among other things.
The first poem, ‘Wedded and Weeded’ illustrates domestic discord, a situation in which the original sweetener of a marriage is no longer there.
In the first stanza the poet observes:

‘He wore a tie, she wore a veil.
And yes, I looked, no face was pale
As both of them walked down the aisle
In sweet rehearsed musical style.’

And yet by the third stanza the poet tells us in first line:

‘He shouts and throws two angry fists’

Here, the contrast is obvious. Just like other poems in the first part, the poet kept asking the question: Who can bake after the heat in the oven is long gone?
In such poems as ‘Beggar Without Choice’, ‘Souls Adrift’, ‘The Baby’ ‘Broken Webs Still Stick’, among others, the poet’s question pops everywhere:

‘How long will you remain
A beggar without choice’
‘Are these not they that breathed hot
Last night, here in the same smoky hut?
Did they not whisper and tangle arms?’
‘Did not the voice bid you change?
Now you die alone on a bed strange’

As one journeys through the politically concious topography of the collection the poet gets more and more angry and poses more and more questions.
In ‘Men or Beasts’ he asks:

‘Why then do men–demon possessed pack,/Merciless Humans that do humanity lack–/Now slaughter on whims and plunder at will?’

In ‘The Shame Of Man’ the poet mocks mankind’s pollution of life with mundane avarice. ‘A Stench in the Nose of God’ poignantly begins this way:

‘Man against man, no one knows another.
Woman against woman, all is put asunder.
Brother against sister, the cord is broken.
The scion forgets that his breath is a token’

The poet went on in the poem to lament and decry the fact that man and God are no longer moving in parri-passu; hence, Man’s farts has penetrated the nose of God, leaving a hideous stench.
The leitmotif of man’s desecration of the original order things as God wills it runs through much of the poems. The poet in moments of tear-jerking lyricsm observes:

‘For now we stand at the edge of the cliff/And we flutter in the wind like a leaf.’

The poet asks another question in my favourite poem of the collection, ‘Where is the Breath of Fresh Air?’
As the poets anger intensifies he, in straightforward deadpan language, confronts those that subverts social values and norms.
In ‘The Voter’ he mercilessly accuses:

‘You are the fool that sold his people for crumbs’

From here the poet’s anger gets the better of him; his inherent socialism comes to fore, so that the overt recommendations of revolution as the means of acquiring a breath of fresh air cannot be totally ignored in such poems as ‘The Land is Ours to Occupy’, We Shall Occupy, Poet’s Rage’.
This revolution is not so much a war of Kalashnikovs and bombs as it is a war of angry pens and smouldering rage at the impunity of our leaders in their continuous and daft perversion of the collective values of a nation; trampling upon the masses; and looting by chewing seeds of discord. As the poet lyrically wishes in the second stanza of ‘A Poets Rage;

‘If I could rhyme you death/And enjamb your stolen laughter/With spells of lingering tears!’,

it becomes immediately apparent what the poet’s festering anger points at. Not unsuprisingly we begin to see such poems as ‘Widows of War’, ‘Hate’, and ‘When We War’, where poet, in vivid lines, paints harrowing pictures of scenes of grief–the antecedent of which is discord and gun-mongery.
Harrowing pictures follows other harrowing pictures of rape, of loot, of privations. It is not far-fetched to say that we are dealing with a socially concious poet here whose anger seeths and whose grief in such poems as ‘Salty Pearls’, ‘Lamentations’, or his resignation in ‘Full Stop or Ellipses?’ and ‘From Dust to Dust’ brings a rare humanity to bear on his work. Inspite of the total annihilation of equality in our society, among other things, the poets makes us understand that there is redemption in true love as he illustrates in ‘Forlorad’:

‘Come, love, come to me.
Come, marry your voice to my ears.
Come plough my frame.
For I am, now, but a fallow land.’

But, even then, this love is blighted by the poet’s scepticism. He wonders if love is not a twist–a gile–which our leaders use as a weapon in their incessant striving to create a divide, as seen in ‘Inanity’:

‘I stand before you, empty.
My heart with love,
Or ‘disvirgin’ it
With the bile of rejection.’;

In the poem; ‘Don’t’:

‘Don’t love me
Like the shadow
That stays only in the dark of night
and flees
at the break of dawn’;

…among others.

In end the poet tells us that God is the ultimate being, the supreme judge. Whatever we do, we should acknowledge the fact that we are going against his statutes. According to him, if we listen when God speaks we ‘ll have peace in our hearts. The poems here–‘Tempted’, ‘Sinking Within’, ‘The Shackles, The Weight’, ‘Man vs God’, ‘Did He Hang for Me?’–tend to be metaphysical.
But then in a poem that poses the central question that pervades the collection, the poet ends on an inquisitive note:

‘What can . . , words do?
. . . Could they be worthless ink stains
Corpses on paper plains
That flies won’t inspect
Ghoul-feast reject
Lacking stink
Wasted ink?
Tell me!’

Can you answer that question?


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  1. Ezeamalukwuo says:

    I have taken my time to read this review…twice I must say. I haven’t read the book unfortunately and it is on my list of “Must Read” books. You did a good job of telling us what the contents is all about, at least when I read it now I will have something to look forward to…

    I feel that there is a big different between reviewing ONE poem and reviewing a whole book of many poems.
    In the former it is assumed that one is moved by the richness of the poem to review it in particular and hence a positive review is generally expected….but in a full book, we expect the Review to tell us what the poet did and what he failed to do…the technique/s, style, structure, rhythm and rhyme, new and old, used and whether they are good, mature, constrained, bad, out-dated and co…
    Unfortunately, Reviews (and Critiquing) in Nigeria today are just circles of circus..a praise singing jamborees.

    From what I read herein, I saw lots and lots of rhyme herein and I believe the book contains poems written in quatrain..and couplet..I feel the review should have pointed the relevant of these poetic forms in Contemporary African Poetry. The reviewer should have discussed the style and settings, the voice, whether it is consistent…whether it is concordat…melancholy or glee…or pastoral, industrial, robotic, archaic, futuristic etc
    I feel that the Review is not bad ooo but a lot is missing…a Review of book is more like a critique of the book…the book should be fully critiqued…if there is a positive side to it, it should be disclosed and so should the negative side…and if there is a question raised, unresolved or left half attended, the Reviewer should point that out…and if the poet has done well and needed renowned rating..we expect the Reviewer to state it in full…and if the Reviewer feels the Poet is very amateurish and should be dismissed, he should state it boldly…for a Reviewer is nothing else but a fearless and sometime heartless CRITIC.

    Folks may argue that this is just a simple reviewing under an obscured blog, but I have always stated that no one knows when he will write his Opus Magnus…

    And this review of “What Can Words Do” is just one sided and that one sided-ness is exploited but half.

    I respect the View of Mr Chimezie and I believe that you have great potential and we are lucky to have you here and to read you, and I believe that with more critiquing who knows…you will be the next Mathew Arnold…keep it up.

  2. LegendaryCJN says:

    To review and or critique are basically not the same but are related. But the above can’t be confused. It was simply a simple review that Chimezie did. But even at that, like Ogaoga has pointed out, I think lots of things are missing here and there in this review. For instance, apart from being a ‘praise jamboree’ and ‘one-sided’ review, we are mainly left OYO on relevant and necessary things as how many poems make up the collection, pagination, publisher, date of publication, ISBN paper type, the cover – whether hard or soft, and the likes. We didn’t even get to know who forwarded the collection. That said, I think it takes a lot of adrenaline to even attempt a project like this. And to that I must commend you. Well done Chimezie. I think I’ve read some other works you reviewed and they were impeccable. (Remember, we are helping you to help us. Our critique can only make you better, so keep writing bra).

  3. Chimezie says:

    Yea. Yea. Of course. I am aware of the missing parts. But I confess, I wrote this in a hasty manner. Next time, I will be more cautious.

  4. Moses opara says:

    This review is powerful. Its just like reading my prof. Oludipe Samuel shading words of hope. The book “What can words do” is a reflection of hope and love, and restoration, and revival of our dreams and future. Great book. More are coming.

  5. Chimezie says:

    Thank you, Moses

  6. Kukogho Iruesiri Samson says:

    I think, when you read this review or critique, you are already on the path of knowing the book. Being the author, I’d say he did look at the book well before penning this. Thank you for the honour.

  7. Kukogho Iruesiri Samson says:

    Reblogged this on AuthorPedia.

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